Indicator D5. Who are the teachers?

On average across OECD countries, 70% of teachers are women in all levels of education combined. The greatest concentration of female teachers occurs in the earlier years of schooling, and the share shrinks with each successive level of education. While women represent 96% of the teaching staff at pre-primary level and 82% at primary level, they make up 60% at upper secondary and only 44% at tertiary level on average across OECD countries (Table D5.1).

Women account for over 85% of pre-primary teachers in all OECD and partner countries with available data, and over 65% of primary teachers in all countries except Japan (64%), Turkey (62%) and Saudi Arabia (52%). In secondary education, although female teachers continue to dominate, the proportion of female teachers is smaller than at lower levels. Women make up 67% of lower secondary teachers on average across OECD countries, with values ranging from 43% in Japan to 85% in Latvia. At upper secondary level the share of female teachers’ drops to 60% on average across OECD countries, with significant variations across countries (from 31% in Japan to 80% in Latvia) (Table D5.1).

At the tertiary level, the gender profile of teachers is reversed, with men making up the majority across OECD countries and female teachers accounting for 44% of the teaching staff on average. In fact, among countries with available data, only in Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and the Russian Federation do women make up more than 50% of teachers in tertiary education. The smallest share of female tertiary teachers among OECD countries is found in Japan (28%) (Table D5.1).

The share of women among upper secondary teachers tends to be higher in general than in vocational programmes, although women are over-represented in both types of programmes. In general education, women account for 62% of teachers on average across OECD countries, and there are more female than male teachers in all countries except Switzerland (48%). The share of female teachers is particularly high in countries such as Latvia and Lithuania, where over 80% are women. In contrast, in vocational programmes, women account for a smaller share of teachers: 56% on average across OECD countries. The share of female teachers in vocational education ranges from 44% in Switzerland to 73% in Latvia (Figure D5.1).

In some countries, the share of female teachers differs significantly between general and vocational programmes. For instance, in Austria, Brazil, Finland, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania, the share of female teachers in general programmes is at least 10 percentage points higher than in vocational programmes, even though women still make up the majority of vocational teachers in these countries. In contrast, the share of female teachers is the same in general and vocational programmes in the Czech Republic (at 60%), the Netherlands (54%), Norway (55%) and Slovenia (67%) (Figure D5.1).

The higher proportion of women among young teachers, together with the predominance of female tertiary graduates in the field of education (see Education at a Glance Database), may raise concerns about future gender imbalances at the primary to upper secondary levels, where women already dominate the profession.

In most countries, the share of women is higher among young teachers (under the age of 30) than among older teachers (aged 50 or older). At primary level, the difference between the two age groups is rather small, with women making up 83% of the younger group, compared to 82% of the older group, on average across OECD countries. At lower secondary level, the difference is also small on average: women make up 68% of teachers under the age of 30, and 66% of those of aged 50 or older. The difference grows larger at upper secondary level: on average across OECD countries, 63% of young teachers are women at this level, compared to 56% in the older group (Table D5.2).

However, at tertiary level, where female teachers are in the minority on average, the higher share of women among the younger generation of teachers suggests there will be an increase in gender parity. On average across OECD countries, the share of women is closer to 50% among younger tertiary teachers, accounting for 52% of teachers under the age of 30, compared to 39% among those aged 50 or older (Table D5.2).

These indicators are consistent with the gender distribution dynamics observed over the decade, which point to a gradual increase in the gender gap in the teaching profession at the primary and secondary level, but a decrease at the tertiary level. On average, for all OECD countries with data for both years, the rise in the share of female teachers between 2005 and 2018 has widened the gender gap by 3 percentage points for the primary and secondary levels combined, while it has narrowed the gap by 5 percentage points at the tertiary level. At the primary and secondary levels, the increase exceeds 5 percentage points in countries such as the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Korea and Slovenia. At the tertiary level, the gender gap has decreased considerably in many countries, with a change of at least 7 percentage points in Belgium, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Slovenia (Table D5.2).

The persistent gender imbalances in the teaching profession, together with imbalances in school leadership, have raised a number of concerns, and countries such as the United Kingdom have implemented policies encouraging the recruitment and retention of a diverse and inclusive teacher workforce, including in terms of gender (OECD, 2014[6]; OECD, 2017[2]).

Teachers’ age distribution varies considerably across countries and levels of education, and can be affected by a variety of factors, such as the size and age distribution of the population, the duration of tertiary education, and teachers’ salaries and working conditions. Declining birth rates, for example, may drive down the demand for new teachers, and more time spent in tertiary education can delay the entrance of teachers into the labour market. Competitive salaries, good working conditions and career development opportunities may have attracted young people to teaching in some countries or helped to retain effective teachers in others.

Young teachers (below the age of 30) only account for a small proportion of the teaching population: 12% in primary education, 10% in lower secondary and 8% in upper secondary, on average across OECD countries. The pattern is particularly striking at the upper secondary level, where young teachers make up less than 10% of the teaching population in most countries. In fact, they account for less than 5% of upper secondary teachers in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain (Figure D5.2).

On average across OECD countries, more than half of primary, lower secondary and upper secondary teachers are aged between 30 and 49, and a high share of teachers are at least 50 years old. The share of older teachers (aged 50 and over) increases with the education level, from 32% in primary education to 36% in lower secondary and 39% in upper secondary education. In most countries, at least one teacher in every three at upper secondary level is aged 50 or over. There is, however, a high level of variation across countries, with the share at upper secondary level ranging from 15% in Turkey to 63% in Italy (Table D5.3).

The ageing of the teaching force has a number of implications for countries’ education systems. In addition to prompting recruitment and training efforts to replace retiring teachers, it may also affect budgetary decisions. In most school systems, teachers’ salaries increase with years of teaching experience. Thus, the ageing of teachers increases school costs, which can in turn limit the resources available for other initiatives (see Box D2.3 in Indicator D2). In addition, during the current COVID-19 crisis, the high share of teachers over the age of 50 may raise health concerns, as older individuals are more at risk of developing severe forms of the disease (Jordan, Adab and Cheng, 2020[15]).

As discussed above, upper secondary education is the level with the smallest share of young teachers on average across OECD countries, and this share has been decreasing in recent years. While on average 12% of upper secondary teachers were below the age of 30 in 2005, this proportion had fallen by 4 percentage points in 2018. The largest decreases were observed in Luxembourg (8 percentage points) and Poland (10 percentage points). In Luxembourg, the share of young teachers still remains above the OECD average at 10%, although in Poland it is now below average, at 4% (Figure D5.3).

However, a few countries have experienced an increase in the share of young upper secondary teachers between 2005 and 2018. The largest increases were observed in Chile (6 percentage points), Japan (4 percentage points) and the United Kingdom (4 percentage points) (Figure D5.3). This may partly reflect efforts to implement teacher recruitment policies. For instance, the United Kingdom launched an ambitious recruitment campaign in the early 2000s, aiming at improving the status of the teaching profession. The campaign used slogans such as “Use your head: teach” or “Turn your talent to teaching”, in order to appeal to young people who were considering teaching but were put off by a number of barriers, including the financial burden of the training. The United Kingdom combined this with financial support for teacher trainees (OECD, 2011[16]). Similarly, Chile implemented the National Teachers Policy in 2017, which sets a new salary scale and professional development system for teachers in publicly funded schools. It also introduced the “Teacher Vocation” scholarship, which covers tuition fees for students in universities (Santiago et al., 2017[17]).

There are two categories of instructional personnel:

  • Teachers’ aides and teaching/research assistants include non-professional personnel or students who support teachers in providing instruction to students.

  • Teaching staff refers to professional personnel directly involved in teaching to students. The classification includes classroom teachers, special-education teachers and other teachers who work with a whole class of students in a classroom, in small groups in a resource room, or in one-to-one teaching situations inside or outside a regular class. At the tertiary level, academic staff include personnel whose primary assignment is instruction or research. Teaching staff also include departmental chairs whose duties include some teaching, but exclude non-professional personnel who support teachers in providing instruction to students, such as teachers’ aides and other paraprofessional personnel.

The share of teachers in the population corresponds to the proportion of teachers in a given age group (e.g. below the age of 30) among the total population of the same age group.

For more information, please see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018 (OECD, 2018[20]) and Annex 3 for country-specific notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/69096873-en).

Data refer to the academic year 2017/18 and are based on the UNESCO-UIS/OECD/EUROSTAT data collection on education statistics administered by the OECD in 2019 (for details, see Annex 3 at https://doi.org/10.1787/69096873-en).

References

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Table D5.1 Gender distribution of teachers (2018)

Table D5.2 Gender distribution of teachers by age group (2018) and percentage of female teachers for all ages (2005 and 2018)

Table D5.3 Age distribution of teachers (2018)

StatLink: https://doi.org/10.1787/888934165909

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